Virgin Mary’s House in Ephesus, Turkey

Pope in Virgin Mary's House

The story of the Virgin Mary’s House in Ephesus

Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824)

It was through Anne Catherine Emmerich that the Shrine of Our Lady of Ephesus was discovered. While it is quite true that Mary’s cult was practiced in Christian Ephesus, and that one could speak of Our Lady of Ephesus in that sense, the title refers to Mary primarily as she is honored at her home in Ephesus, the house wherein she lived for the last nine years of her life, the place of her Dormition — the site of her Assumption.

It is altogether proper to say that without Catherine Emmerich, Mary’s home, or Panaya Kapulu, as the local people call it, would in all probability not be known to the world today. Without her, then, this house of the Holy Virgin, where already hundreds of thousands have venerated Mary, would still be nothing but a relatively deserted ruin, known only to a few.

 Anne Catherine Emmerich
Anne Catherine Emmerich and the Virgin Mary

Catherine Emmerich was born on September 8, 1774, in the village of Flamske, near Coesfeld, in the diocese of Münster, Westphalia, Germany. A peasant, she was bound out to a farmer at the age of twelve. Six years later she was apprenticed to a dressmaker in Coesfeld, and after two years of sewing, she went home and began in earnest her efforts to enter a convent, a desire she had entertained from her early teens.

She asked to be received at the Convents of the Augustinians at Borken, of the Trappists at Darfield, and the Poor Clares at Münster; but her poverty, and that of these convents, always presented an insuperable obstacle to her being received.

Catherine simply did not have a dowry; she would have appeared, therefore, to any poor convent as a definite liability. When twenty years were behind her, she had amassed through her sewing the vast fortune —vast to a poor peasant girl —of about ten dollars. The idea had come to her that with that money she might learn in Coesfeld how to play the organ and then, armed with such a talent, perhaps gain admittance to some convent. But once in Coesfeld, she spent so much time, and all her money, serving the poor that there was none left for learning music. She remained at Coesfeld for some four years, working and spending on the poor what little she earned.

While from her youth visions were commonplace to Catherine, she told of one that was distinctly different. She was twenty-four years old and still at Coesfeld. One day about noon, while kneeling in meditation in the Jesuit church, she experienced actually and visibly the sufferings of Christ’s sacred head crowned with thorns. Four more years in Coesfeld passed, all the while Catherine’s desire of becoming a nun increased and her chances decreased.

The House of Virgin Mary
For a long time, there have been priests and nuns in the Virgin Mary’s house.

Finally, the opportunity came when the parents of a young girl whom the Augustinian nuns of Dülmen wished to receive into their order refused to give their consent unless Catherine was taken at the same time. “The nuns yielded their assent, though somewhat reluctantly, on account of their extreme poverty, and on the 13th November 1802, one week before the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, Anne Catherine entered on her novitiate.”

Catherine’s life in the convent of Agnetenberg was not always easy, since she was “different” from the other nuns. But she bore all things patiently and lovingly. At the age of twenty-nine, exactly one year after her admittance, she pronounced her solemn vows. Catherine’s life in the convent was accompanied by many remarkable phenomena, not the least of which was her numerous visions during her illnesses.

Catherine had never been the picture of health, nor in fact, did she enjoy what little health was rightly hers, for she had asked God to allow her the suffering of others and He granted her desire. In 1807 Catherine began to experience pains corresponding to the wounds of Christ, and the pain in her feet often prevented her from walking. On the 3rd December 1811, the convent was suppressed [under the government of Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia] and the church closed.

The nuns dispersed in all directions, but Anne Catherine remained, poor and ill. A kindhearted servant belonging to the monastery attended her out of charity, and an aged emigrant priest, who said Mass in the convent, remained also with her. These three individuals, being the poorest of the Community, did not leave the convent until the spring of 1812. In the spring of that year, Catherine was thirty-seven and a very sick woman.

Mother Mary's House in Ephesus
The House of the Virgin Mary has great importance in the world of religion.

She was moved to the home of a poor widow in the neighborhood, where she had a miserable little room for a year and a half. It was toward the end of December that the full stigmata of Christ’s cross and crucifixion were imprinted upon her. Not only was Catherine unable to walk or rise from bed but she also soon became unable to eat.

Word of her stigmata leaked out early in 1813 and the village doctor forced her to undergo an examination. Contrary to his expectations he was convinced of the truth of the phenomena and forthwith drew up an official report. He attended to Catherine as a physician and friend from that time until her death. Once his examination had been conducted, of course, word spread. On March 28, 1813, the Church authorities from Münster decided that an ecclesiastical investigation was desirable, and a commission that included Dean Bernard Overberg, the vicar-general, and three physicians proceeded to Dülmen.

The members of the delegation found her stigmata genuine, and one of the doctors published 1814 a detailed account of the phenomena in the Medical Journal of Salzburg. On October 23, 1813, Catherine moved again; this time she had a window overlooking a garden — a big improvement over the past year and a half. Catherine’s aged mother came there from the country in 1817 to die by her side.

Her father had died at home a short time earlier. Given what has been said of Catherine’s peasant youth, it should not come as a surprise to learn that she was practically illiterate. She nonetheless believed that God wished her to leave “for the good of many souls” and the many revelations with which He had blessed her. In spirit, she had already visited many places and witnessed numerous events, relating especially to the lives of the saints and the feasts of the Church. And she was yet to witness, in her bedridden state, even more.

There are priests and nuns in the Virgin Mary's house
Priests in the Virgin Mary’s house take part in the Sunday services.

In her last years (1821-1824) the visions became increasingly concentrated on the life of Christ and the saints about Him, particularly Mary. When Clemens Brentano (1778-1842), the German poet, first visited her on September 17, 1818, she recognized him as the man who was to enable her to fulfill her wish to set her visions down in writing. Although her conviction alone would have sufficed, she was furthermore counseled personally by Bishop Michael Sailer on October 22, 1818, to relate everything to Brentano.

Catherine passed her remaining years in ecstasies and suffering, always repeating her visions to her scribe. In 1823 she said that God would soon take her to Himself. On February 9, 1824, at half-past eight in the evening, having received the Last Sacraments, she breathed her last in the presence of a priest and a few friends. She was carried to the grave the following Friday, the thirteenth, followed by the entire population of the place.

As a postscript to Catherine’s life, here is an extract, printed in December 1824, from the Journal of Catholic Literature of Kerz: About six or seven weeks after the death of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a report having got about that her body had been stolen away, the grave and coffin were opened in secret, by order of the authorities, in the presence of seven witnesses.

They found with surprise not unmixed with joy that corruption had not yet begun its work on the body of the pious maiden. Her features and countenance were smiling like those of a person who is dreaming sweetly. She looked as though she had but just been placed in the coffin, nor did her body exhale any corpse-like smell. It is good to keep the secret of the king, says Jesus the son of Sirach; but it is also good to reveal to the world the greatness of the mercy of God.

The House of Virgin Mary
The House of the Virgin Mary is a Catholic place located on Bulbul mount in Selcuk Turkey, around Ephesus. People of all religions visit it.

The case for Catherine’s beatification was introduced in 1892 by the Bishop of Munster and is still pending. As will become clearer later on, the question of Catherine’s visions, as edited by her scribe, Brentano, had hindered the process all along. A gigantic step forward occurred when Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) eliminated them from further consideration. 2. Her Visions, in General, The visions of Catherine Emmerich as transcribed by Brentano are not wholly perfect. But after all, when you consider the means afforded her for handing them down to posterity, this is not surprising.

There are some errors, but they are practically always of little consequence — chronological, geographical, or philological. And as one expert remarked, “. . . the statements of Anne Catherine Emmerich . . . are never found to be counter to the Scriptures, nor mistaken about Jewish ritual at the time.”

The man ultimately responsible for the written version of Catherine’s visions was something of a controversial character himself. Clemens Maria Brentano (1778-1842), a part-time poet and prominent member of the Romantic School, is perhaps best known for having published Des Knaben Wunderhorn. He married a divorcée named Sophie Moreau, and after her death in 1806 became a drifter. A second marriage proved disastrous and he left his second wife. The year 1818 found him in Berlin and “converted” — his previous indifference to his Catholic birthright transformed into fervent devotion.

The House of Mary in the night
The house of the Virgin Mary is considered a holy place by all religions.

Later in 1818 he first learned of Catherine Emmerich on reading a published letter of the Count de Stolberg, which bore witness to the authenticity of the phenomena observed in the stigmatic. He afterward learned more from a friend who had visited Catherine. In September 1818, he managed an invitation from Bishop Sailer and obtained from Dean Overberg, the bishop’s vicar-general, a letter of introduction to Catherine’s doctor.

His first visit with her was on September 17. Shortly after that, and for reasons already mentioned, he began to transcribe all that she told him. He passed in this manner for six years, although he allowed a few deliberate interruptions. Thus he remained her servant from the moment of introduction to the end.

When Catherine died in 1824, Brentano again wandered, settling finally in Munich in 1833. From the mass of the recorded visions, he extracted everything about the life of Christ and edited the very last portion, some ten years after Catherine’s death, under the title The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord. Besides the large collection on the life of Christ, he extracted another smaller collection on the life of Mary.

He began printing this in 1841 but never finished it because of illness. He died on July 28, 1842. His brother, Christian, who fell heir to his papers, wished to continue printing The Life of Our Lady but died in 1851 without having accomplished anything. Christian’s widow, with the aid of some friends, finally succeeded in having this and other collected writings published in Frankfurt in nine volumes (1851-1855).

Mass in the house of the Virgin Mary
People of all religions visit the house of the Virgin Mary.

In editing Catherine’s visions, Brentano attempted wherever possible to add footnotes from Sacred Scripture, history, tradition, and geography, to show their agreement with reality. Probably, he may even have made some changes in the visions themselves. Then, too, the language and expressions employed by Brentano, a man of superior education, are quite likely different from Catherine’s oral report. Concerning these questions, the following may be noted:

We have no hesitation whatever in allowing the force of this argument. Most fully do we believe in the entire sincerity of M. Clement Brentano because we both know and love him, and, besides, his exemplary piety and the retired life which he leads, secluded from a world in which it would depend but on himself to hold the highest place, guarantee amply sufficient to satisfy any impartial mind of his sincerity.

A poem such as he might publish, if he only pleased, would cause him to be ranked at once among the most eminent of the German poets, whereas the office which he has taken upon himself of secretary to a poor visionary has brought him nothing but contemptuous raillery.

Nevertheless, we have no intention to assert that in giving the conversations and discourses of Sister Emmerich that order and coherency in which they were greatly wanting, and writing them down in his way, he may not unwittingly have arranged, explained, and embellished them. But this would not have the effect of destroying the originality of the recital or impugning either the sincerity of the nun or that of the writer.

The House of Mary is in the Selcuk town in Izmir City
The house of the Virgin Mary is a place of worship respected by all religions.

No attempt will be made to give further details of the controversy concerning Brentano. For that, the reader is referred to some of the studies already made. And, as already noted, the obstacle which this question had presented to Catherine’s beatification has been removed. Brentano undoubtedly rephrased Catherine’s simple statements, enhanced them, and added some ideas of his own; let him, therefore, bear the blame for the few errors contained, and give the little nun credit for the rest.

The idea of making Brentano responsible in greater part than Catherine for the germ or basic content of the majority of visions is incredible. That the finger of God is evident in those visions, even as handed down by Brentano, cannot be denied. At all times Catherine appeared humble, simple, charitable, and docile. The visions of Catherine were, at best, private revelations.

Such revelations have been the object of skepticism down through the ages, and are still such today. Visions of this nature ordinarily possess merely a relative value, and the measure of their worth may be disputed. The Catholic Church, while inflexible in dogma, permits complete liberality to the human mind in almost everything else.

Anne Catherine Emmerich
Anne Catherine Emmerich is one of the most important people in the discovery of Mary’s House in Ephesus

You may, therefore, believe private revelations or reject them, as you will. You may place credence in the visions of Catherine Emmerich and others, or you may decline to accept them and dispute their authenticity and divine origin. Even when the Church approves private revelations as written by this or that saint, it does not thereby confirm the content; it gives assurance that nothing offensive is contained.

The Church would only reject and condemn revelations that contained matter contrary to faith or morals, or which were opposed to Scripture and apostolic tradition. No such fault can be found with Catherine’s revelations as embodied in the ecclesiastically approved Dolorous Passion or the Life of Mary, nor can fault be found with the nun herself for she related everything in a spirit of complete submission to the Church.

Ephesus The House of Virgin Mary
The House of Mary is close to Ephesus Ancient City

Revelations such as Catherine’s are edifying and, since they effectively serve to promote piety, this is sufficient reason for their existence and nominal acceptance. They read as easily as the daily newspaper, and are much more credible and captivating. They took their place in the world rapidly, once they appeared, and they hold it in many languages to this day. Their acknowledged place is, of course, that of a most impressive and singularly memorable collection of meditations, having the extraordinary power of enabling their readers to appreciate the full story behind the brief and austere gospel narratives.



Daily life in Ephesus – About Ephesus

  1. Ephesus Gods and Goddess
  2. About Ephesus history
  3. Festivals in Ephesus ceremony and procession
  4. Ephesus city management
  5. Sex life in Ephesus
  6. Burial in Ephesus
  7. How was childhood in the ancient city of Ephesus in Greek and Roman times?
  8. What did women do for their beauty in ancient Ephesus?
  9. How was a Marriage? Get married in daily life in Ephesus
  10. Ancient Ephesus food beverage cuisine and meal
  11. Gladiators in Ephesus
  12. Clothing and fashion in Ancient Ephesus
  13. Ephesus The Comedy of Errors – Shakespeare
  14. St. Paul in Ephesus
  15. Virgin Mother Mary in Ephesus
  16. Ancient Ephesus Marbles
  17. Ancient Ephesus History
  18. Slavery in Ephesus
  19. Ephesus Council – Biblical Ephesus
  20. Ephesus Temple, Ephesus Offerings Votives

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